Distinctive Group

The signing of the Edinburgh and South East Scotland City Region Deal in 2018 marked the start of a journey to make the city region the ‘data capital of Europe’.

he main driver of that ambition, the Deal’s Data-Driven Innovation (DDI) initiative, recently passed the halfway point of its ten-year delivery phase, presenting a good opportunity to review progress and highlight the benefits already being delivered in the region.

Valued at £660m, DDI represents the largest part of the City Deal. It is being delivered by the University of Edinburgh and Heriot-Watt University in collaboration with local public, private, and third sector partners. We also work closely with other universities and colleges in the region through the multi award-winning Data Skills Gateway, which upskills local people in data literacy.

The DDI initiative is made up of a cluster of innovation hubs bringing academic disciplines together to solve some of the world’s most pressing challenges in ten sectors, including Financial Services, Health and Social Care, AgriTech and Public Services.

One such hub is the UK’s only National Robotarium, which drives entrepreneurship and job creation by working with industry to test and develop robotic, artificial intelligence and automated technologies designed to positively impact the economy and society. The facility recently announced a strategic alliance with Tata Consultancy Services on applied engineering and will undertake joint research in areas of urgent societal need, including social and geriatric care. 

Edinburgh will also host the UK’s first exascale supercomputer, a £900m investment able to perform one billion, billion calculations per second. This unique resource will accelerate delivery of DDI projects across all sectors, boosting economic growth.

We are also rolling out Europe’s largest Internet of Things network, working with over 500 schools in South East Scotland to provide pupils with unique data skills learning opportunities, including workshops where pupils analyse live data on light, heat, and Co2 levels around their schools.

We are keen that these achievements translate into tangible benefits which add value to the city region, including new jobs, skills, and companies.

To that end, our data upskilling short courses at the Bayes Centre, another of our six DDI hubs, are aimed at jobseekers and those already in employment. It has already supported 3,000 participants since its launch. The City Region Deal’s Data Skills Gateway has also already reached 34,500 participants since 2018 and helped over 1,600 people to progress into jobs. Many new companies have also benefitted from working with the Bayes Centre, such as Optima Partners, which combines management consultancy with data science expertise to help clients across multiple sectors.

Recent external evaluations also demonstrate the impact DDI is having in the City Region. The Harvard Business Review ranked Edinburgh fifth in Europe for our work on artificial intelligence; similarly, The Data Capital report by Accenture highlighted Edinburgh’s position as a top region for work in this discipline. Closer to home, a 2023 FinTech Scotland report confirmed that Scottish fintech companies received over £305m funding in 2022, an increase of over 200% on 2021. Supporting Financial Services is a key DDI priority, evidenced by our hosting of FinTech Scotland and the achievements of Smart Data Foundry.

We look forward to building on these successes with partners across the region, embedding DDI as a vital part of our regional economy. We also wish to use our experience with the City Deal to accelerate progress in other areas where regional collaboration is vital, such as climate change and net zero, where there are opportunities to enhance skills, create jobs and boost entrepreneurship. 

For more information, visit www.ddi.ac.uk 

DDI Case Studies


Centre for Investing Innovation with abrdn

A five-year strategic partnership between the University of Edinburgh and abrdn, the global investment company with headquarters in Edinburgh. The centre is facilitating creation of new financial products, services, and business improvements for abrdn, while delivering research impact in sustainability, investing innovation, thematic investment and artificial intelligence.

Bayes Centre Data Upskilling Courses

Courses aimed at jobseekers and those already in employment to equip individuals with skills to thrive in data-centric roles. The benefit to businesses is they can upskill whole teams or individuals, as well as leaders looking to work strategically with data to aid decision making. Bayes continues to develop new industry collaborations and courses to extend the reach of the portfolio, further empowering people to work confidently with data and implement effective data science solutions.


Collaborative Edinburgh Festivals Data

Edinburgh Fringe data is used to explore preferences and behaviour of festival attendees, empowering artists to make informed decisions on show promotion strategies and optimising ticket sales. This project is an integral component of the broader Edinburgh Culture and Communities Mapping Project. Looking specifically at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, the research used existing infrastructure and data, supplemented by data from recent ticket buyers, to map purchases around the city.



One of many Bayes Centre industry residents, Snugg helps homeowners make their homes more energy efficient. Using data drawn from multiple sources, homeowners can refine their home improvement plan based on latest insights. Snugg supports them on their energy efficiency journey, helping consumers understand which grants they qualify for, how to finance energy improvements, and where to find installers. Snugg partners with banks and utility firms, including TSB and EDF, who support customers in reducing home carbon emissions.

Read our annual review at www.ddiannualreport23.com